CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

E-Update Dec

December 12th, 2012
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Distinguished, Nonpartisan Commission Announced to Study and Inform Policies on Youth Voting

CIRCLE recently announced the formation of the distinguished, nonpartisan and scholarly Commission on Youth Voting & Civic Knowledge, which will be charged with investigating exclusive data related to the civic knowledge, voting behavior, and beliefs of young Americans ages 29 and under.

The Commission was formed in response to controversies about recent voting laws as well as debates about civic education in schools and colleges. The Commission is funded by the Spencer Foundation, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Youth Engagement Fund, the W.T. Grant Foundation, and the Chicago Community Trust and will be under the leadership of CIRCLE director Peter Levine and staffed by CIRCLE’s team of researchers and analysts.

CIRCLE also released a summary of existing research entitled, “Voting Laws, Education, and Youth Civic Engagement: A Literature Review,” which is an example of the kind of research CIRCLE will provide to the Commission and the public. A sample of findings include:

  • Civic education boosts knowledge and engagement.
  • Election officials and agencies may be effective civic educators.
  • Making registration and voting more convenient has a modest impact on turnout.

A full list of commission members, information about the commission, and updates on its work and progress can be found online, here.

Want to Understand Student Voting and Registration Patterns on Your Campus?

CIRCLE’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, NSLVE, offers colleges and universities an opportunity to measure student registration and voting rates and to study the effectiveness of educational programs designed to increase civic learning and engagement in democracy. By participating, your institution can join an innovative national research initiative.

Studying voting rates of students offers one way to measure the effectiveness of campus programs and provides an important baseline that can lead to improvements in academic programs and co-curricular experiences. Voting is by no means the only indicator of civic engagement, but it is fundamental. Despite this, there are currently no reliable estimates of student voting rates on individual campuses. NSLVE will fill that gap.


Read the FAQ, including how NSLVE works here.

Learn how to get involved here.

Stay connected to CIRCLE on facebook and twitter to learn more.

2012 Youth Vote Differs by Race & Gender, and Educational Attainment

An estimated 23 million young Americans under the age of 30 voted in the 2012 presidential election, about 50% of young eligible voters. Turnout was very close to the 2008 rate of 52 percent. Youth turnout in battleground states was 58%, suggesting that youth respond to increased activity by political parties or organizations that engage youth in politics.

In addition to the turnout estimate, CIRCLE released detailed analysis on the youth vote in 2012, including fact sheets on the youth vote by gender & race, as well as by educational attainment.

New CIRCLE analysis on the impact of State Voting Laws and Civic Education on Youth Voter Turnout

Findings suggest that that the new voter ID and other laws do not seem to have affected youth turnout by a significant amount. However, many other factors influence youth turnout, and isolating the effects will require more evidence. Furthermore, this preliminary research does not address the impact of these laws and pushback efforts on sub-groups of youth. Read more about the state voting law analysis here.

Data from the civic education policy analysis suggests that states that strengthened or maintained their civic education requirements had higher youth turnout in 2012 than states that had cut their civic education requirements, but the turnout difference was already evident before any recent changes in laws.

© 2010 CIRCLE (The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)

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Find more analysis in our 2016 Election Center. For regular updates in your Inbox about youth and the 2016 election, sign up for CIRCLE's monthly E-Update here.

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